Extreme cold grinds northern France to a halt
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Unseasonably severe cold weather paralysed much of northern France on Wednesday, after tens of thousands of homes were left temporarily without electricity, while roads and public transport services were running at reduced service.
Despite a thaw expected later in the week, a severe late-winter snowstorm ground much of northern France to a halt on Tuesday and Wednesday.
The cold snap brought widespread travel chaos with the cancellation of hundreds of flights at main airports and the suspension of train services including cross-Channel Eurostar trains.
But the prospect of a thaw did not alleviate the misery of thousands in north Europe, and especially France.
Parisians woke up Wednesday to see the city covered with snow and thick ice, with little evidence of an effort to salt or grit the roads.
And while Metro and city train lines were running smoothly, all buses in the Paris region had been taken off the roads because of the ice, while many taxi drivers gave up and went home for the day.
On Tuesday 80,000 French homes were without electricity, while thousands of motorists were left stranded in their cars overnight.
French weather service Metéo France placed 19 northern French administrative regions on “Orange Alert”-- the second highest -- on Wednesday morning, warning of a severe risk from icy snow and black ice on the roads.
The United Kingdom, Germany and the Netherlands also reported major disruptions.
Frankfurt Airport, Europe's third-busiest hub, reopened two runways by late Tuesday after being briefly forced to completely close due to the heavy snow.
An airport spokesman said 700 flights had been cancelled out of a scheduled daily total of 1,250 and warned of more cancellations and delays on Wednesday.
On Tuesday, Paris's two main airports, Charles de Gaulle and Orly, cancelled up to a quarter of flights and the nearby Beauvais airport, serving mainly low-cost airlines, cancelled all flights.
Services are slowly returning to normal, although airports warned passengers to anticipate longer journeys to get to the airports themselves and to check travel information online.
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